Getting a soundbar for your home-theater setup gives you the best of both worlds: You don't have to settle for built-in TV speakers — which we've found to be consistently lackluster — but you also get to enjoy quality audio without the cost (or clutter) of a traditional speaker setup.
After testing dozens of the most popular soundbars on the market, we've found the $799 Sonos Playbase to be the best overall pick for those willing to spend a premium thanks to its rich sound and versatility as a home theater speaker. There are plenty of great sub-$100 soundbars for those on a budget, including the excellent Megacra 2.0 Channel Soundbar. Looking for something in-between? Check out our top picks below.
Latest News and Updates (August 2018)
- We've added the Yamaha YAS-108 as our new sub-$200 pick, thanks to the rich sound and healthy feature set it offers for an affordable price.
- We're looking forward to testing Yamaha’s latest model, the $500 MusicCast Bar 400, when it ships in September. This soundbar lets you add wireless surrounds to create a true 5.1 system, and also supports Multicast multiroom audio.
How We Test Soundbars
When testing soundbars, we play range of media — including movies, music and games — in order to evaluate overall sound quality. We also test any companion software that may come with a soundbar, and factor in how easy it is to set up and use each device.
Other features we consider include a soundbar's inputs, outputs and ability to be wall mounted, all of which determine how well it will work with your home entertainment setup. We also take into account each soundbar's wattage, its supported audio channels and whether it includes a subwoofer — all factors that greatly affect how each speaker will sound in your living room.
What is Dolby Atmos?
More and more soundbars are embracing Dolby Atmos, which is a surround sound technology designed to simulate the immersive 3D audio you'd get from a movie theater. The big difference between Atmos and traditional surround sound is that you'll hear sound move up and down and not just side-to-side, allowing you to get extra immersed when, say, a car flies overhead in an action movie. There are already lots of soundbars that support Atmos, including the LG SJ9, Sony HT-ST5000, and Yamaha YSP-5600. For more on the technology, check out our complete guide to Dolby Atmos.
What Soundbars Cost
You can get a decent soundbar for less than $100, as long as you're not expecting much in the way of special features. Stepping up to the $200-$300 range will get you extras such as a subwoofer and virtual surround sound, though you'll spending closer to $500 to $600 if you want fancy extras like Hi-Fi audio and 4K passthrough. Dolby Atmos soundbars can be found for as little as $300, but higher end models loaded with bells and whistles can easily run you over $1,000.
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